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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton February 18, 2017

Manipulating humor styles: Engaging in self-enhancing humor reduces state anxiety

Thomas E. Ford, Shaun K. Lappi, Emma C. O’Connor and Noely C. Banos
From the journal HUMOR


We conducted three experiments to determine if engaging in self-enhancing humor can alleviate state anxiety associated with an anticipated stressful event. In all three experiments, participants imagined they were about to take a stressful math test. In Experiment 1 participants who engaged in self-enhancing humor while anticipating taking the test experienced less state anxiety than those who engaged in self-defeating humor or no humor at all. Experiment 2 demonstrated that engaging in self-enhancing humor reduced state anxiety more than mere instructions to adopt a non-serious, humorous outlook in the stressful situation. Experiment 3 revealed that self-enhancing humor alone induced participants to adopt a humorous perspective on the stressful math test, but that participants responded with the least state anxiety when they were also given instructions about how to use the humor to reframe the math test. Collectively, our findings corroborate and extend previous correlational studies showing that self-enhancing humor can alleviate state anxiety associated with a stressful event.


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Self-enhancing Cartoons and Jokes

Joke 1

Q: “What’s the difference between a large pizza and a Ph.D. in mathematics?

A: A large pizza can feed a family of four!”

Joke 2

Teacher: If I had five coconuts and I gave you three, how many would I have left?

Student: I don’t know.

Teacher: Why not?

Student: In our school we do all our arithmetic in apples and oranges.

Joke 3

Q: If I had seven oranges in one hand and eight oranges in the other, what would I have?

A: Big hands!

Joke 4

Q: “What do you get if you add two apples and three apples?

A: A stupid middle school math problem!”

Self-defeating Cartoons and Jokes

Joke 1

I’ve failed the mathematics test so many times I lost count

Joke 2

I’m so bad in math, I once wrote a math test and still failed it.

Joke 3

I’m so bad at math I though binary was a two-headed canary!

Joke 4

I’m so bad at math, so the equation 2n+2n is foreign to me.

Deception is our ProfessionThe Wise Old Owl
All the world is a stage,A wise old owl sat in an oak,
And we are merely actors,The more he heard the less he spoke;
So why is it we hurt inside,The less he spoke the less he heard.
When we are deceived …Why aren’t we all like that wise old bird?
When our hearts are broken …
When acting, deception and lying,
Are the elements of our Profession.
War Poem
Nausica. The daughter of a king.
Dreams of the pulse of a beating moth.
Dreaming of dolphins leaping and turquoise tiles.
Nausica earnest as Odysseus tells his stories;
How swords gashed echoes from the sky,
How heroes clashed, and marked the other,
Gorbelled his skull, trophated his endention;
Debaunched his orchids, and called forth
The hidden pitches of panic
Out from their lair of bones.
Odysseus on Delos
The quick flames eat.
The white ash feathers to the sky.
The light pours down, as light
On Ida and on Samothrace descended,
Lucidities of light to make more pitiless
All deeds of daylight.
God and the Soldier
God and the soldier
All men adore
In time of trouble,
And no more;
For when the war is over
And all things righted,
God is neglected—
The old soldier slighted.
Published Online: 2017-2-18
Published in Print: 2017-9-26

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston